After a video of a shopkeeper denying snacks to school children belonging to Scheduled Castes (SC) went viral on social media, officials with the district administration sealed his shop at Panchakulam near Sankarankoil in Tamil Nadu’s Tenkasi on Saturday, September 17. The Karivalamvanthanallur (KV Nallur) police have arrested the shopkeeper Maheshwaran and another man, Ramachandran alias Murthy, in connection with the case. The duo has been booked under the Indian Penal Code’s Section 153(A) (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony).
The viral video showed Maheshwaran using casteist slurs against the school children and asking them not to come back to the shop, drawing strong condemnation from social activists and a widespread demand for action against him. Subsequently, as per the directions of Tenkasi District Collector P Akash, Revenue Divisional Officer Subbulakshmi sealed Maheshwaran's shop. The police have initiated a probe into the incident.
In the video, the school kids can initially be seen waiting in front of Maheshwaran's shop to buy some snacks. However, their disappointment can be heard after the shopkeeper tells them that the villagers have decided to not sell anything to the people from “your street”, alluding to a section of the residential area in which they live. Maheshwaran runs a small shop near the Government Adi Dravidar Welfare School, and the school kids apparently often used to approach his shop for snacks. This time, however, he asked the kids to tell his parents about this decision taken by the village. “You, hereafter, should not go to the shops located in the village... Leave... Go to school... Tell your parents that you cannot get the provisions here,” he is seen telling the students in the video.
Maheshwaran's move is learnt to have come in the wake of an economic boycott of the SC community in the village, that has happened as the result of an ongoing tussle between the people of Pariah (SC) and Yadava castes there. During an earlier fight, both the communities had ended up filing cases against the people of the other caste.
A few days ago, one Yadava man approached the people of the SC community asking them to withdraw the complaint against him, since he had been selected for a government job and a police case against him would have been a hindrance for the same. The people of the SC community responded by saying that they were ready to withdraw the complaints, but only if the Yadavas withdrew the case against them as well. The latter, however, eventually refused to do so. They then took up the issue with the local caste panchayat, and decided to implement an economic boycott of the SC communities in the village.
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